Computers in Cells

Computers in Cells

World Distribution of Computer Victory

Beginning in December 2017, emails detailing the compelling argument and victory decision for Computers in Cells were sent to all prison authorities within Australia, as well as to authorities in most countries globally. They were requested to adopt the argument in their jurisdiction.

In every Australian and New Zealand jurisdicition, each Premier, Minister, Opposition Spokesperson, Greens, and head of bureaucracy were sent the news. Emails were also sent to all NSW Members of Parliament and Judges from the High Court to magistrates.

Internationally, the information was sent globally to prison authorities in UK, Canada and USA. 

It featured in UK prisoners' newspaper Inside Time article. Inside Time newspaper.

It went to Europe with translations where necessary. This included Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, The Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Portugal, Spain, Belarus, Georgia, Iceland, Kosovo, Albania, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and Denmark. 

In Asia it went to China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Taiwan. 

It also went with translations to the Districts of Russia, the Caribbean, Jamaica, Guam and Fiji.

Responses are flowing in from all over the world with the right to communication in locked institutions firmly on the agenda.

Index page to campagin

Western Australia Computer in Cells Media Release

Poor Computer Access - WA Prisons Inspector
Article from The West Australia " Greater Computer Access part of W.A. Plan"
Justice Action Media Release: March 29, 2018
The WA Inspector of Custodial Services, in a damning Report just released “The Digital Divide”, in which Western Australia was exposed as having the lowest rate of computers in cells of any state. Thirty-six computers service over 4,000 prisoners. In 2009 there were 167. This lack of computers severely affects the prisoners’ ability to survive upon release.
The Inspector said “Smart use of technology can…increase people’s opportunities to stay in contact with family and friends while in custody, making reintegration less confronting. With the right technology, access to legal, health and government services in custody can be increased. Web based systems and other technologies offer opportunities to increase program and education services in the custodial environment”.
The Inspector cited ‘fiscal pressures facing government’, however he failed to mention the consequence of not offering online counseling services in a bid to reduce the rates of domestic violence. This would result in 173 women and children unnecessarily experiencing domestic violence, and $38 million in unnecessary Government expenditure, each year. This compelling argument convinced the NSW to implement Computers in Cells, and it should be applied equally around the country.
The Inspector was also concerned about in-cell restriction to basic electronic legal information. ‘With the exception of Acacia Prison (16 computers) all other facilities have six or fewer working library computers which can be accessed for legal purposes’, and access to these computers is further restricted depending upon ‘…overcrowding… rostered times, or when parts of the prison are lock down as a result of incidents or short-staffing.’ The lack of evidence when it comes to regular discussion with the legal profession about communications and access of clients is concerning to say the least.
In the ACT Computers in Cells have been operating for 8 years and is safe, effective and cost efficient. See ACT Report. Education participation in the ACT prison stands at 76.3%, which is more than double the national rate of 31.6%. It saves money and makes us all safer with fewer victims. The cost of the computers infrastructure in a major prison only costs $230 000. This is equivalent to the cost of keeping two prisoners for one year.

Victory: Computers for Legal Access


The need for prisoners to access computers in cells is at last being recognised by the law. In a groundbreaking decision in Liristis v State of New South Wales, Tony Liristis, an inmate of Long Bay Correctional Centre, was successfully granted access to a laptop and printer/scanner to prepare his case whilst in custody.

Justice Schmidt presented the following decision:

“Mr Liristis forthwith be given access to his printer/scanner and laptop in custody and that he be permitted to use that equipment in the preparation and conduct of his case, both in custody prior to the commencement of the hearing and in the District Court, during the course of the trial.”

Tony Liristis was originally denied access to a computer that was needed to prepare and present his own case, research the law, and view evidence on CDs. In consequence, his trial had to be postponed the legal process was frustrated.

Access to a fair trial is a common law right, and depriving a prisoner of technology can amount to gross miscarriage of justice. Mr Liristis’ victory proves the need for the Computer in Cells campaign and has set an important precedent for greater access to technology in custody.

Unfortunately, Corrective Services NSW appealed Justice Schmidt’s decision. The case went before the Supreme Court (Court of Appeal) on 7 and 8 May 2018. We are awaiting the result.

Below are three documents consisting of:

  1. Judgement of Justice Schmidt in Mr Liristis’ favour
  2. Transcript from the 30th of January 2018
  3. Transcript from the 31st of January 2018

Victory for Computers in Cells NSW August 2020

CJC Media Release August 10, 2020


“COVID-19 has dramatically disconnected us from each other. But for those held in prison cells it has enabled vital connections. For the last five months visits to NSW prisons have been banned and been replaced by video visits using 430 computer tablets. This experience has led to good general acceptance by staff in correctional centres. This breakthrough now allows rehabilitation services to be delivered into cells, including access to white-listed secure internet sites. This is consistent with the Government’s aim to reduce recidivism” said the Hon John Dowd AO QC, President of the Community Justice Coalition.


“The overwhelming success was to enable 70,204 family visits to date. Twenty percent of video ‘visitors’ were from interstate or overseas, people who would normally not be able to visit inmates. We have been advised that the infrastructure is in place at Dillwynia Women's Correctional Centre and John Morony Correctional Centre to support the roll out of tablets to all the prisoners by September. After that there is capacity to bring on six jails at a time, subject to funding, starting in September. Lessening the isolation through this technology is for the benefit of the whole community” said the Hon Elizabeth Evatt AC, former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia. 


“As well as having telephony capacity, the tablets will have access to digital mental health services. This flags the beginning of services that will support prisoners experiencing disorders exacerbating drug use and violence. Computers in cells have proven to have positive outcomes in other jurisdictions in reducing the reoffending rate. It is also a real opportunity to implement new education strategies and introduce behavioural change material. This is a new era for NSW prisons by taking an inclusive approach to rehabilitation and lessening the number of victims in our society” said Ken Marslew, CEO Founder, Enough is Enough Anti Violence Movement Inc.


GTL and Telstra are the technology providers.


Index page of Computers in Cells Project



“Knowledge is power.  Information is liberating.  Education is the premise of progress."

- Kofi Annan


RAND (Reports on the efficacy of prison education programs)
Prisoner Public Education Attacked
Denying Education to the Willing: The Jeffrey McKane Story
Computers in Cells Roundtable DIscussion
Prison Education Public Forum Footage
Prison Education Public Forum Summary Paper


Providing education to people in prisons is vital in reducing recidivism. A recent study found that inmates that participated in educational programs while in prison were 28% less likely to commit another serious offence than those that didn't participate. Therefore, providing education to prisoners is vital not only for the safety of the community, but also for the furthering of people in prisons. Providing prisoners with access to eduational services through computers in cells is a cheap and effective way to achieve this.


Education is a basic human right. The educated have heightened opportunities that allow for an improved quality of life. It is vital that all individuals be given access to education irrespective of socio-economic status or personal circumstances. There is an urgent need to improve education for prisoners as it highly contributes to reducing recidivism, maximising rehabilitation and allowing those in custody to work towards improved post-release lives.

Recent technological changes in educational systems have adversely impacted the incarcerated by impeding on their ability to undertake or complete studies. Prison privatisation has become another major barrier as it has led to a decrease in the staffing of quality education providers.

See our Report on the United Nation's Investigation into Education in Detention.
See also the Community Justice Coalition Forum on Education in Prison 2016 and our discussion paper.

The Benefits of Education

 Education in cells improves mental and physical well being, reduction of substance abuse, increasing chances of post-release employment, rehabilitation, personal development and autonomy.

Many studies regarding education in custody have shown such improvements. A RAND Corporation study outlined that American “inmates participating in correctional education programs had a 43% lower recidivism rate than those who did not”. In addition, each dollar spent funding prison education decreased incarceration costs by four to five dollars.

The Right to Education

The UN Report on Education in Detention states that globally, many prisoners and detainees have faced “institutional and situational barriers” during their studies. This is particularly attributable to “the personal whims of prison administrators and officers… the absence of libraries… and educational material” (Munoz, 2009, 11). Australia, as a signatory of UNICESCR, has formally recognised that access to education is a basic human right, further enshrined in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1995). It is therefore imperative that such arbitrary restrictions are prevented in corrective and mental health services. New processes such as retraining officers, hiring educational administrators and inclusion of prison libraries are necessary to increase accessibility to education programs.

Access to Education

Computers in Cells 

Computer access in cells can maximise productivity in a safe manner allowing access to online education, counselling, and legal services. Empirical data has demonstrated that computer-aided education has a highly beneficial effect on reducing recidivism compared to restricted access.

Online Services

Online services are paramount in giving inmates the ability to utilise education schemes, research databases and outlets.


A traditional literature system is essential, as many prisons do not have the finances to hire teachers or provide computers with Internet access in cells. Access to books allows inmates in custody to learn about subjects of interest, to self-development and improve productivity.

Barriers to Education

Lack of technology is a main barrier within prisons and prevents access to knowledge. It is unreasonable to expect a course to be completed without long-term access to computers and the Internet.

The successful case of Jeffrey McKane:

Prior to incarceration, Jeffrey McKane was embarking on a law degree at the University of New England. At Goulburn Correctional Centre, the NSWSC Commissioner repeatedly denied Mr McKane the ability to continue his studies citing inadequate resources and limited staffing. Furthermore, Mr McKane was denied his application to the Supreme Court seeking orders for CSNSW to grant him access to his studies.

This education block was highly disappointing but through Justice Action’s intervention, Mr McKane has gained access to study a law course at Southern Cross University (SCU). JA accessed online lecture materials on his behalf, took responsibility for his student email and administrative matters and provided a retired teacher to supervise Mr McKane’s examinations.

Education Providers

BSI Learning has been contracted as the main education provider in NSW prisons by Corrective Services NSW, replacing university-qualified educational officers with Certificate IV in Training and Assessment trainers who are not qualified to work in schools in the mainstream education framework.

The effect of NSW Privatisation

Additional education

Limited Certificate courses are currently provided by NSW Prisons in Construction, Education, Engineering, First Aid, Workplace Health and Safety, Health Support Services and Transport. Whereas BSI provides accredited learning courses in Hospitality, Kitchen Operations, Construction, Cleaning operations and Language, Literacy and Numeracy.

Additionally, institutions and government agencies offering modified higher education programs. The University of Southern Queensland, the leading and largest national provider for incarcerated higher education students, and the Adult Education and Vocational Training Institute offer limited Corrective Services approved Services in NSW.

Community Justice Coalition (CJC) Forums

Prisoner Education Forum 2016

Prison privatisation has resulted in reduced education quality and has raised significant ethical problems. Prisoner’s autonomy has been limited based on the decisions of private corporations, which are disinterested in prisoner rehabilitation.

Privatisation of prisons has been seen, for example, in the 2016 “Better Prisons” initiative replacing 130 qualified teaching positions in NSW prisoners with administrative clerks. The government described the initiative as a program to lift performance and improve the efficiency of the prison education system. However, profit and efficiency became the long-term aim. 

Prisoner Education Forum 2018

The primary focus of the 2018 Community Justice Coalition forum was the compromised quality of tailored education brought about by privatisation. It was evaluated that this system is a significant demarcation of the poor standards of teaching in prisons.

The 2018 Prisoner Education Forum (PEF) passed two motions resolving that professional teachers be provided throughout NSW prisons with a focus on reducing recidivism and supporting reintegration into society. PEF also resolved that computers in cells should be provided to prisoners as an educational tool.

Computers in Cells


NSW Prisoners Get Tablet Computers in Cells August 2020
Victory: Computers for Legal Access in Liritis v State of New South Wales
Poor Computer Access - W.A. Prisons Inspector
World Distribution of Victory
Prisons NSW Agreement
Victory: Computers in Cells to be Implemented
Cost of Inaction - Prisoner Domestic Violence
ACT Prison Report
Youth Access - International Survey
Petition: Call for Computers in Cells for Juvenile Detainees
Facebook Wants Kids in Juvenile Detention to Get Internet Access
Computers in Juvenile Cells
History of The Computers In Cells Project
21st April 2017: The launch of Computers in cells campaign by Community Justice Coalition (CJC)
30th March 2017: Online Legal Services
NSW Government Response to JA Online Counselling Proposal
21st April 2015: Online Counselling in Cells
 Computers In Cells Policy Policy Proposal
5th May 2012: Online Education Services


Computers have had a profound impact on society in recent decades – not only in the workplace but also in homes, schools and the public arena. The benefits of computers are invaluable to prisoners, providing a means to access online education, counselling (including domestic violence) and legal services. Whilst computers are readily available and widely used by the public, prisoners have not been afforded the same level of access to computers, often due to misinformed security concerns and the ignorance of prison administrators.

Many prisoners spend up to 18 hours locked in their cells every day. As Justice Action has proposed, having computers in cells would safely and securely help to maximise productivity during the 18 hours prisoners spend in isolation, provide trusted counsellors through external providers, allow for the stability of service providers throughout the sentence and after release, and encourage empowerment and self-management.

Prisoners, teachers, service providers, government bodies and enforcement agencies all agree on the need for education within the prison system. They recognise that education is instrumental to the successful rehabilitation of prisoners, contributing to the reduction in rates of recidivism.

To learn about our Computers in Cells campaign in the past, see below for archival publications and related articles.

CJC Media Release: Campaign Begins

CJC Media Release

Community Justice Coalition (CJC) recently released a media release   commenting on the urgent need for computers in prisons across NSW and Australia. CJC advocates for the myriad of benefits that computers in cells will provide for prisoners and the community that would "radically improve outcomes for prisoners". CJC explains that the easy access to computers for prisoners will allow for easy delivery of programes such as domestic violence and de-radicalisation counselling, access to education and legal services in a safe and controlled manner. For more information, visit the CJC website here or go to our computers in cells campaign page, here.

Media Reports

The Daily Telegraph Reports on Friday, 21st of April, 2017: 


News.com.au reported on 20th of April about the importance of 'Computers in Cells'.


Prison Responses.jpgLATEST NEWS


“Prisons are highly unsettling environments in which individuals are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations. Confronted with existential questions and deprived of their existing social networks, prisoners with no previous involvement in politically motivated violence are vulnerable to being radicalised and recruited into terrorism. Prisons, therefore, are ‘places of vulnerability’ in which radicalisation can take place” (Peter R. Neumann, 2010) 

There are many ways in which an individual can become radicalised; existing theories emphasise different perspectives or levels of radicalisation. A number of factors such as a lack of social support, political views, and individual factors are common themes among radicalised individuals. In order to address the issue of radicalisation, it is imperative that computers are placed within prison cells. This allows prisoners to utilise time in their cell which would otherwise be wasted, on receiving online counselling services which help begin the de-radicalisation process.

Online programs and services have been shown to reduce rates of offending and should have the capacity to make a positive impact on the process of de-radicalisation. Online access to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been shown to offer a range of benefits that include the following:

• The period of time spent in isolation each day is utilised productively;
• Stability and continuity of the service provider are ensured throughout the sentence and after release;
• Greater trust in external counsellors;
• Greater empowerment by encouraging self-management;
• Greater cost-effectiveness; and
• Research indicates that online counselling leads to more long-term changes in the behaviour of participants than face-to-face counselling.

Even though there is little to no data on recidivism with relation to terrorist offences due to the new nature of the offence and the minimal convictions, its root causes and matching solutions are not completely removed from more conventional crime. Research demonstrates that access to formal education and work opportunities increasingly lower recidivism rates for prisoners. The absence of meaningful personal relationships and a weak sense of community belonging play significantly into the radicalisation process, yet their influence has been overlooked in a number of de-radicalisation programs. Working towards lower rates of recidivism should give equal, if not more, weight to the engagement of a radicalised individual. A strong coordinated community and government effort that includes prisoner training, education, and engagement within prisons would significantly reduce recidivism and the chances of re-radicalisation.

Australian Capital Territory Since its deployment in 2009 at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, PrisonPC has provided inmates with access to several online resources. The initial aim of PrisonPC was to provide educational support for prisoners, which would contribute to lower rates of recidivism and aid in the process of social re-integration. However, the interface also provides several add-ons such as media streaming facilities and religious services. Online counselling in cells increases the availability of these services in concurrence with the chances of rehabilitation.

New Zealand – Auckland South Corrections Facility
Given the increasing prevalence of computer and Internet usage in our society, several international jurisdictions have implemented the use of online counselling in newly built jails. This demonstrates the importance of recognising the positive influence technology can have in rehabilitating those in prison rather than subjecting them to punishment. In particular, the construction and operation of the Auckland South Corrections Facility in 2015 symbolises a step forward in the recognition of the importance of access to technology in promoting self-management. As such, the Serco Director of Operations Scott McNarin states that “access to this technology imposes the expectation that prisoners will engage in purposeful activities, such as education, in what can often be an unproductive time in other prisons.” Hence, this program demonstrates that there is scope for the introduction of online counselling in Australian cells to provide access to positive, external influences. It is clear that access to online services in cells provides a constructive opportunity for effective prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

With the appropriate resources and services, the higher the possibility of lowering levels of recidivism. Therefore, introducing online counselling into cells and offering online counselling services presents a viable option for tackling the issue of radicalisation.

Community Justice Coalition: Cost of Inaction - Prisoner Domestic Violence

Cost inaction coverphoto 


The paper released by the Community Justice Coalition (CJC) estimates that over 500 women and children could have been spared the traumatic effects of domestice violence if the NSW Government had accepted the free offer of online counselling for prisoners in their cells. Additionally $110 million dollars could have been saved over the past twelve months.

Click here to visit CJC page.

Index page for Computers in Cells


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